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Jonesboro 'sagging pants' ban has support

Pants on the ground, pants on the ground. You might get a ticket, if your pants are on the ground.

Several Jonesboro residents and city council members expressed support, on Monday, for a proposed amendment to the city's "Disorderly Conduct" ordinance that would make it illegal to sport a fashion trend, commonly known as "sagging pants."

The fashion style, which has been around since at least the early 1990's and is popular with young people, gets its name from the fact that it involves a person wearing a loose, low-hanging article of clothing (usually a pair of pants) on the lower portion of his, or her, body. Often, the person's underwear becomes exposed to public view as a result.

That is not the view that some people in Jonesboro want to see, according to Ann Sligh, who has lived in the city for 75 years.

"Sitting with my mother, on her front porch, twice I've now seen a young man's pants fall down around his knees, so that he actually had to stop and pull them back up," Sligh told the city council. "This is offensive, and disrespectful to others, and I believe it constitutes disorderly conduct, if not indecency.

"Further, it certainly doesn't help to change the image that too many people already have of our county, and our city," she added. "No one, including me, wants to look at, nor should they have to look at, someone else's underwear."

Support for the amendment was strong at the city council meeting, with no resident or councilmember speaking out against the proposed ban.

Councilmembers are expected to conduct a second reading on the proposed amendment, and vote on making it official city law, at their next business meeting. That meeting will be held Aug. 8, at 7 p.m., in the meeting room at the Jonesboro Police Department, 170 South Main Street, in Jonesboro. If approved, the ban would go into effect 10 days later.

"It will be enforced [and], it will have punishments set with it [if it is approved]," said Mayor Luther Maddox. "It will not just be blowing in the wind. We will do something about it."

Jonesboro's proposed amendment would make it illegal for people to wear their pants (or shorts, or skirts) more than three inches below the level of their hips, there"exposing the skin, undergarments, or underwear," within Jonesboro's city limits.

The city's police officers would have the discretion to, first, give a verbal warning to any person found violating the ordinance. But, the officers would also have the authority to charge the individual with "Disorderly Conduct" if he, or she, continues to refuse to comply with the proposed law. Then, the individual would have to appear in Jonesboro Municipal Court, and likely have to pay a fine.

Maddox has said Jonesboro does not have a major problem with people wearing their pants too low, but he has also said he wants the city to be proactive on the issue. City Councilman Clarence Mann, who expressed support for the amendment, said the city is, "more or less, trying to stop it before it becomes a problem." He added that several residents have also told him they want the amendment passed.

"I think it's something that we need," Mann said. "I think it shows a lot of disrespect to dress in that manner."

Mann and fellow City Councilmember Wallace Norrington conceded that people might argue against the ordinance, on the basis of it possibly infringing on a person's individual rights. But, they added that the rights of other people, who are offended the fashion trend, come into play as well.

"There's always questions that come up about people's rights, but one person's rights end where another's [begins]," said Mann.

Norrington, another supporter of the amendment, added: "People just want to do as they please, but they've got to realize they can't. When you start to infringe on other people's rights, you lose that liberty. These teenagers just don't understand it ... Teenagers need to know that there are certain things you just don't do."

Jonesboro could become the second Southern Crescent city in less than a month to ban sagging pants. Late last month, the Hampton City Council approved a similar law. "If Jonesboro picks up on it, and some of the other [local] cities pick up on it, I think we can really get this thing under control," Norrington said.

At a Forest Park City Council meeting, also on Monday, a resident of that town asked his city council to also consider a sagging-pants ordinance. Forest Park officials thanked the resident for his comments, but did not indicate whether they might follow Jonesboro's lead.

If Jonesboro passes its amendment, it will be one of "20-30" Georgia cities that have banned sagging pants, according to Amy Henderson, a spokesperson for the Georgia Municipal Association.

— Staff writer Kathy Jefcoats contributed to this report.